At least three people were killed by floodwaters that devastated much of southern Alberta, leading authorities to evacuate the western Canadian city of Calgary’s entire downtown. Inside the city’s hockey arena, the waters reached as high as the 10th row.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the level of flooding “stunning” and said officials were not yet sure if it would get worse, but said the water had peaked and stabilized and the weather had improved.
Overflowing rivers washed out roads and bridges, soaked homes and turned streets into dirt-brown waterways around southern Alberta. Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Patricia Neely said two bodies were recovered and a third was in an area that made it too dangerous to recover.
As the sun rose in Calgary on Saturday morning it wasn’t raining. Some of the 75,000 flood evacuees were holding out hope they might soon be allowed back into their homes. However, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said earlier that the downtown area was still without power and remained off limit. “It is extremely unlikely that people will be able to return to those buildings before the middle of next week,” he said.
He also warned that there could be another wave of danger ahead.
Iconic structures flooded
The flood has hit some of the city’s iconic structures hard. The Saddledome, home to the National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames, was flooded up to the 10th row. That would mean the dressing rooms are submerged as well.
“This is incredible. I’ve seen a little bit of flooding in Calgary before. I don’t think any of us have seen anything like this before. The magnitude is just extraordinary,” the Mayor said.
“We’re all very concerned that if gets much more than this it could have real impact on infrastructure and other services longer term, so we’re hoping things will subside a bit.”
Mr. Nenshi said 25 neighbourhoods in the city, with an estimated 75,000 residents, were evacuated due to floodwaters in Calgary, a city of more than a million people that hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics and is the centre of Canada’s oil industry.
A spokesman for Canada’s Defence Minister said 1,300 soldiers from a base in Edmonton were being deployed to the flood zone.